Gehlot leads from the front as poll politics resume
The BJP is sparing no effort to raise emotional issues to shift the agenda even as the chief minister strives to stay focused on his government’s achievements.
New Delhi: Although the elections in Rajasthan are more than a year away, the mood in the polls has started to improve in the state. Rajasthan’s Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot, appears to have set his strategy after getting carte blanche from the Congress high command. As part of the strategy, Gehlot has begun to showcase his government’s achievements in what is seen as its efforts to ensure local issues are put on the agenda for next year’s elections. At the same time, the BJP is trying to push the polling agenda along the path that suits its politics. The objective of the saffron party is to highlight the achievements of the central government.
Rajasthan’s opposition party will use Prime Minister Modi’s popularity to woo voters in the desert state. The party also raised the issue of bulldozer driving, Karauli and Alwar incidents, etc. to give a different color to the whole atmosphere. In what could add to the political strength of the BJP in the polls, Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced in Bhopal that the BJP-ruled states will bring in a Uniform Civil Code (UCC). Observers say this is an issue fraught with the potential for polarization on communal lines. So, Shah has amply hinted how the BJP campaign is going to be dominated in next year’s polls in Rajasthan as well. BJP strategists know how the similar announcement regarding the UCC ahead of the Uttarakhand elections has benefited the party. Thus, the Congress of Rajasthan will have to formulate its strategy keeping this in mind as well. If the BJP raises the UCC issue in a big way, it will definitely pose a gigantic challenge to the ruling party in Rajasthan. If Congress will face a loss if it opposes the UCC.
However, the Congress contradicts the BJP’s allegations in the Alwar Rajgarh incidents. The ruling party has accused the BJP of demolishing a temple in Alwar because the Rajgarh city council is ruled by the saffron party. Another issue that was raised was about the demolition of a temple in Salasar, which the BJP was trying to raise in a big way. However, it was later revealed that the whole matter fell under the jurisdiction of the NHAI. But the Karauli issue has been massively politicized. However, the state government effectively controlled the situation
But the BJP’s policy on such “community” incidents has Congress worried about voter polarization in the future. Undoubtedly, there is no anti-incumbent as such against the Gehlot government despite more than three years in power. Questions are certainly being raised about the functioning of MPs. Gehlot makes it a point of honor to push his works to inform the people. But what we have seen is that Gehlot is fighting alone, with deputies and other leaders less visible on social networks to circulate the achievements of the government.
One of the main achievements of the Gehlot government has been its effective fight against Covid-19, which has also been admired internationally. The Congress highlights it at different levels. However, strategists believe that the party should popularize the decisions of the Gehlot government that benefit the common man. For example, Gehlot’s budget is considered the best budget ever. But the question is whether the main features of the budget receive enough publicity. Decisions like old pension scheme, Indira Gandhi urban job guarantee, raising the limit from Rs 5 lakh to 10 lakh under Chiranjeevi Yojana, etc. are some of the issues that can give a major campaigning boost to Congress. The opposition will remain speechless on these issues. Also, the Eastern Rajasthan Canal project is a big issue that Congress can raise in the polls. The ruling party takes aim at the BJP over the centre’s failure to give it national project status.
But the Congress lacks a solid and systematic organizational structure that could really help it to overtake the BJP on these issues. Internal conflicts make matters worse. More than other parties, the insiders try to destabilize the government. In a warning to such elements, Gehlot keeps recalling how, two years ago, some leaders tried to overthrow his government. The BJP always tries to take advantage of these internal problems in Congress. The BJP is moving to target the government as the Delhi-based Khan Market Gang spreads rumors of a changing of the guard in Rajasthan. The phrase “Khan Market Gang” was coined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Lok Sabha polls in 2019. However, the activities of this group have been limited since the Modi government came to power. But some congressional leaders are still in touch with “that gang.”
Meanwhile, the BJP is also trying to use the “bulldozer demolition campaign” as a big political weapon. Needless to say, the bulldozer policy has benefited the BJP a lot in the UP polls. Similarly, bulldozer driving at Jahangirpur in Delhi has become a big issue with opinion split between Hindus and Muslims. Congress does not want too much emphasis on this issue. Even though the BJP is also led by a faction in Rajasthan, the saffron party seems less plagued with problems than the Congress due to the strong central leadership.